July 31, 2014

Congress Should Seize Opportunity for Medicare Reform

  • The American health care system is a patchwork of public and private programs that serve citizens in different ways, depending on their age, military...

The House has passed a bill to reform Medicare payments to providers but doomed the legislation by attaching a 5-year delay in the Affordable Health Care’s individual mandate. A dozen Democrats joined the Republican majority in approving the bill Friday on a 238-181 vote.

Republicans and Democrats agree that Medicare’s payment system should be replaced with a system that would reward quality rather than quantity of care. Such a change could help curb rising medical costs.

But lawmakers remain at odds over how to cover the estimated 10-year cost of $140 billion.

Democrats vigorously reject a lengthy individual-mandate delay, which would undermine the individual insurance market. Democratic suggestions that unspent war funding could be used instead, however, are misguided because that money was never really going to be spent anyway.

Congress faces an April 1 deadline to avoid a 24 percent cut in payments to physicians under Medicare’s current formula. Lawmakers have a good opportunity for Medicare reform; they should not squander it with partisan bickering over how to pay for it.